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Toward the Setting Sun: Cabot, Columbus, Vespucci and the Race for America Paperback – January 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Gordonsville, Virginia, U.S.A.: Walker & Co; Advanced Reading Copy edition (2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0802716512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802716514
  • ASIN: B002EU8GDM
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on June 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've read a number of books on the exploration of the New World over the years. This is one of the stranger books I've read on the subject. The author has an odd view of the exploration of the New World, a different aspect of things, a very different point of view. This means has he has produced a truly different book, written from a unique perspective and with very unusual facts included.

The author apparently intends to do two things. First, he wishes to put forward the idea that Columbus, Cabot, and Vespucci all knew one another, and in fact (he thinks) actually intended to work together on the project of discovering and exploiting the New World. Second, he believes that just recounting the stories of the various voyages of exploration, by themselves, without any context as to what was happening in Europe at the time, performs a disservice. As a result, the author starts the narrative recounting the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This event led indirectly to the voyages of exploration, because the Byzantine Empire had been the conduit through which European nations traded with the East. When the Empire fell, there was ample motive for European merchants and monarchs to find an alternative route to the Eastern markets. This led to Columbus and Vespucci, at the very least, and Cabot probably, going West to wind up in the East. The result, of course, was the discovery of the Western Hemisphere, which Columbus didn't know existed and wound up dying without ever recognizing.

I thought this book was interesting, and the context into which the author puts the events recounted in the book makes the narrative very interesting. On the other hand, the idea that Cabot, Columbus, and Vespucci worked together as recounted in the book is rather thin, to say the least.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Linda S. Myers on August 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Nicholas has written an excellent review, with which I agree, so I will not repeat what he has said. My chief criticism of the book is the lack of discussion of the sources for Boyle's conclusions about Vespucci, Cabot, and the Columbus brothers as planning to work together to explore what turned out to be the New World. I realize that Towards the Setting Sun is meant to be a popular history, so that massive notes would not be appropriate. However, an appendix discussing the historical sources would strengthen the text considerably. It is an interesting theory.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Really interesting book. Especially to know the contemporary events of the time and what was motivating the different explorers. There was a density of information per paragraph.
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Format: Hardcover
In "Toward the Setting Sun," David Boyle shows he is a fine writer. But he is not a fine historian and that is what proves so frustrating about this book.

Boyle argues that the Age of Exploration needs to be put in the greater context of political battles. He offers solid background on the politics that resulted in Europe after the fall of the Byzantine empire. Boyle is a fine craftsman of sentences and paragraphs and the book does hold the reader's attention.

But Boyle takes things too far in his main argument that Columbus and Cabot and Vespucci were close, sometimes partners and sometimes rivals. He is also weak in arguing about what happened to Cabot--even referring to a historian who burned her work on Cabot and speculating on it. Boyle also goes into Dan Brown territory, pondering the connections between the flags of explorers and the eventual flag of the United States.

There are fine moments in this book--and it's an interesting topic. But Boyle dropped the ball badly and it's a testament to his skill as a writer that the book is not a total disaster. Still, I have a hard time recommending this book to most readers.
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